The Big Lab Grown GiveawayAugust 24, 23
Steven Singer is putting his money where his mouth is. He's so convinced that lab growns are worthless that he's literally giving them away.
You may have read about the giveaway launched earlier this month at his store in Philadelphia, USA, with 600 customers getting a free one-carat lab grown with any mined diamond engagement ring (starting price $548).
Well that's only the start. He's rolling out the giveaway across the USA.
"We're going to give away $25m or $30m worth of diamonds, or at least that's what they were worth three years ago," says Singer.
"We're going to launch a national giveaway, no purchase required, between now and the end of the year, and certainly through the first quarter of next year to Valentine's Day.
Singer is outspoken, and no stranger to controversy. He built a marketing campaign for his Steven Singer Jewelry store using "I hate Steven Singer" as the slogan after a customer bought a diamond ring as a 20th wedding anniversary for his wife.
It led, so the story goes, to the unplanned arrival of the couple's third child, and the customer returning to berate Singer for the sleepless nights he was suffering.
Singer also ran a cheeky "Does Size Matter?" ad featuring three women in a hot tub comparing their, er, diamonds.
And he's just launched another, Hello Dolly, in which a sad loner proposes to his "not real" girlfriend with a "not real" diamond.
He says he'll never sell a lab grown, and he says it loud and clear.
"That's an absolute promise and commitment," he says. "In the last 10 years, I've lost close to $50m by not selling them.
"I've never sold them. And I never will. And that's why we're giving them away just to prove how worthless they are."
De Beers sell lab growns, the overwhelming majority of retailers sell lab growns, GIA certifies lab growns, and so does virtually every other lab. But Singer is adamant they'll cause "the collapse of our industry" and he will never touch them.
If he'd simply argued against lab growns, he'd have been dismissed as bitter, he says.
"The only way I could was by giving them away, several million dollars worth, and proving that they're worthless.
"Because if they had any value, why would anybody give them just given away? So we're giving away hundreds if not thousands of carat size and half-carat lab growns for free."
They may be cheap, but manufacturers aren't actually giving them away. So how much is this enterprise (he doesn't like me calling a stunt) costing?
"We signed NDAs with a lot of people when we started this project but I will tell you that we've spent at cost, at our cost, several million dollars so far to do this whole promotion."
The money he's investing in giving away diamonds is of course, marketing dollars that would otherwise go on TV, radio, podcasts or billboards.
But will he recoup that expenditure in publicity and sales?
"It's either going to be the greatest thing I've ever done in 48 years in the business, or the dumbest thing I've ever done. And I don't know," he says.
"But I can't sit by and let the jewelry business collapse because of all these idiots.
"I don't know that I'm important enough or big enough or have a loud enough voice. I probably don't.
"But doesn't mean I'm not going to try to resurrect it and get it back on track."
He says he didn't believe anybody would be "stupid enough" to sell lab growns when they first hit the market about 10 years ago.
"The whole romance around diamonds is that they're real, they're rare, they're natural. It's like beachfront property, God ain't making any more of it."
He was wrong, and he readily admits it. Selling engagement rings with mined diamonds is selling a fantasy, he says. Once you can mass-produce the diamond, he says it's like a magician showing you how they do the trick or a comedian telling you the punchline to a joke.
"I said the industry couldn't be that stupid. Well, I was wrong. The industry is that stupid. And now 91 per cent of the industry is either selling lab grown exclusively or lab grown and natural.
"And the ones that are selling both, according to my unofficial tally, are a 90/10 in terms of retail units - selling 90 per cent lab and 10 per cent natural."
He says he never thought the split would go beyond 50/50.
Singer's store is one of 300 or so jewelry businesses at Jewelers' Row, Philadelphia, the oldest shopping district in the US, and he has 30ft banners outside, advertising free lab growns.
"If somebody's walking by my store and they're going to buy a one-carat lab grown diamond for $3,000 or whatever, they see they can get a free one here," he says.
"There's very little chance they're going to spend any money when they can walk into my store and get it for free."
Neighboring stores may not be too happy, but Singer says he's been inundated with calls from De Beers, the Natural Diamond Council, New York Diamond Dealers Club, Diamond Club West Coast, RJO (Retail Jewelers Organization), IJO (Independent Jewelers Organization) and many more.
"Everybody's calling me, everybody's thanking me. And on top of that, I had one death threat. So I know I'm doing something right," he says.
"I had one guy come in (to the store) with a gun, saying it was illegal."
A picture of the man from the surveillance system has been passed to the police.
Have a fabulous weekend